One in three faking adult ADHD – researcher
ONE in three adults being tested for ADHD is faking it, a researcher has told a conference of psychiatrists in Hobart.
Dr Danielle Florida says ADHD’s symptoms are not difficult to imitate and adults do it to get their hands on drugs or social benefits.
“Certainly, American data would suggest that at least one in three people presenting for a diagnosis of adult ADHD are faking or malingering to obtain prescriptions for various reasons,” she says.
Dr Florida has been conducting a review of literature of diagnosis and treatment issues around ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
She told the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Pyschiatrists’ Congress the American figures also apply to Australia.
“If you just look at the gross figures of the exponential increase in terms of diagnosis and stimulant prescriptions, it's the same level in Australia as the United States,” she says.
ADHD is traditionally associated with children and Dr Florida says diagnostic criteria were designed for them, making it harder to accurately diagnose adults.
But studies have also shown that people trained to fake the tests, or even those with a general knowledge of ADHD, can get themselves diagnosed.
“Anybody could Google what are the symptoms of ADHD,” says Dr Florida.
“The symptoms are there (on the assessment tool) . . . you have to tick yes or no.”
Avoiding criminal prosecution and picking up disability pensions are among the reasons for people faking ADHD, she says.
The numbers among university students faking could be closer to one in two, she says, as they look to share the stimulants prescribed.
“If someone has genuine ADHD and takes stimulants, their academic performance will improve,” says Dr Florida.
“However, if you don’t have genuine ADHD and take stimulants you can have the energy maybe to stay awake all night to write that essay, but that B-grade essay won’t become an A-grade essay.”
Dr Florida says two new computer-based tests are available that make it easier to discriminate between malingerers and genuine ADHD cases.